El Roi means, “The God Who Who Sees.” Today, let us glean from the life of a woman named Hagar. The revelation that we will glean from this story is not merely that God sees. The revelation is, God wants you to see that He sees you!
In (Genesis Chapter 16) Hagar is introduced as Sarah’s Egyptian slave-girl. There are no details about the path that led to Hagar’s bondage in Egypt. However, (Genesis 12:16) gives us a clue of how Abraham and Sarah may have acquired Hagar as a servant in their household.
In this saga, Sarah solicited Hagar in her plan to conceive an heir for Abraham. In the ancient world it was not uncommon for an infertile wife to arrange for a slave girl to act as a surrogate so that the family could have an heir. Abraham and Sarah had many servants. Any slave-girl could have done the job well. However, God’s divine providence was at work. Hagar was chosen by God to give birth to a powerful nation.
For a while, all was going well for Hagar. Hagar had a prominent position as Sarah’s personal attendant. However, once Hagar conceived, she was not content with her lot as a slave. Hagar rebelled and conflict arose between Hagar and Sarah. With Abram’s blessing, Sarah re-asserted her position of power over Hagar.
Hagar reached her breaking point. She fled into the wilderness. Discontent, discouraged, distressed, and despondent, Hagar wept bitterly near an unnamed well. God saw Hagar and offered hope to her and her unborn child. God heard Hagar’s cry. There, beside the well, Hagar called on the name of God, “…El Roi: You are the God who sees me… I have now seen the One who sees me.” (Genesis 16:13-14)
As a woman of color, I can relate to Hagar’s predicament. I have often felt marginalized. When I have put my best foot forward, I have felt the sting of rejection by being relegated to stereotypical roles that fit others hurtful opinions of me.
Like Hagar, when my heart is overwhelmed, I run to El Roi: The God who sees me. I scream out to God in tears until He caresses my soul and takes away the sting. I cry out to God until I can sing again, laugh again, and love again. I remain in God’s presence until my perception of the situation changes and once again I see myself as El Roi sees me: Strong, confident, beautiful, and capable.
Beloveds, if your present circumstance is full of pain and your future is full of uncertainty, I urge you run into the presence of El Roi (the God who sees you) and remain there until He makes you whole again.
Where Are You Going?
In (Genesis 16:8), God asked Hagar, “Where have you come from and where are you going?” God’s question to Hagar had little to do about the logistics of her journey from Abraham’s household to this well in the wilderness.
There is always a story behind pain. God was concerned about what troubled Hagar. God is concerned about what troubles you. God sees our tears and He wants us to bring our troubles to Him. God desires to engage us in our struggles so that His strength is made perfect in our weakness. God gives beauty for ashes. God transforms lives.
In the midst of hopelessness and desperation, God saw Hagar. God sees you. God sees me. God promises to never leave nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5) and to work all things out for our good (Roman’s 8:28).
“I’m running away from my mistress, Sarai,” she replied.”
God knew that Hagar’s destiny was to be more than a lowly slave-girl. Hagar would become the mother of the Arab people. God gave Hagar instructions to return to Abraham and Sarah. Running away from our problems is not the answer. God wants to bring us through difficult circumstances. God did not abandon Hagar into the fate of captivity. God profoundly valued Hagar and her child. God had a plan for their lives (Gen. 16:9).
God Sees You
“Beloved, likewise God has a plan for your life. It doesn’t matter what the doctors say, lawyer say, boss’ say, he say, she say, or they say, God will always have the final say.”
“We can submit ourselves to the will of God, knowing that God is in control. God has our best interest at heart. God will always protect His investment in us. As Hagar submitted herself to human authority, she ultimately submitted herself in the hands of ALMIGHTY GOD.”
“You shall name him Ishmael [meaning “God hears”], for the Lord has heard of your misery. He will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.”
God blessed the birth of Ishmael. For fourteen years the household of Sarah and Abraham offered peace and provisions for Hagar and Ishmael to thrive. Abraham, circumcised Ishmael, ensuring that the boy bore the sign of Yahweh’s covenant. Growing up under Abraham’s supervision, Ishmael served Yahweh. However, the birth of Isaac complicated matters for Hagar and Ishmael.
This polygamous family drama finally reached its breaking point (Gen. 21:10). Abraham expels Hagar and Ishmael from the household.
Cast-out into the wilderness, Hagar and Ishmael are abandoned. This time there is no well; only dry sand. The sun burned hot, and the water ran out. Hagar left her son by a bush. Hagar couldn’t bear to watch Ishmael die, so she walked a short distance away to mourn. But once again, God saw Hagar and comforted her.
“Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying… Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation.”
God opened Hagar’s eyes, and she saw a well of water. Both mother and child survived. In an act of splendid redemption, God reiterated His promise to bless Hagar’s descendants.
“As for Ishmael, I have heard you. See, I have blessed him and I will make him fruitful, and I will multiply him very very much. He will father twelve princes and I will make him a great nation.”
There, in the wilderness, in the midst of profound despair, when all hope was lost; God saw Hagar and kept His promise. God reshaped Hagar’s identity. Hagar was no longer a slave. She became an heir to God’s promises. Hagar became the “Queen Mother” of the Arab world.
Ultimately, Hagar’s story is more than the story of a slave and her son. This is a story of the divine providence of God. Not only does God sees – God is committed to guiding us into our destiny. God guides His children like a shepherd guides His flock (Jeremiah 29:11) and (Isaiah 40:11).
Beloveds, God sees you. God calls you by name. God walks the winding path to wholeness with you. Your struggles are not in vain. God never ends a story without bringing back His glory. The same God who saw Hagar in her distress also sees you. No matter the circumstances, God will not leave us without hope. God will make something beautiful out of our lives when we put our trust in El Roi, the God who sees us.
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